Career advice: Standing up in a down market

Times are tough for many IT professionals. As organizations continue to tighten spending and reduce headcount, many corporate IT workers are being forced to absorb additional work in return for flat or meager pay hikes that aren't keeping up with cost-of-living increases.

But sometimes volatility breeds opportunity. "The biggest thing I try to look for with staff is innovative ideas, how to do more with less" on a limited or flat IT budget, says Lou Trebino, senior vice president and CIO at The Harry Fox Agency Inc. in New York.

[ For more career advice, see Start-ups may make the best target for the employment search and How many Twitter followers does it take to get a job? ]

Find out how three people – Robert Tresente, Kristine Harper and Jose Sauceda – each found ways to help their respective companies by showing a little initiative and enhance their positions in their organizations.

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Robert Tresente

Robert Tresente

Just under three years ago, Robert Tresente was hired by The Harry Fox Agency to launch a project management office. Tresente, who was previously a program manager for a PMO at Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey, was charged with bringing more discipline to the company's project management efforts while directing a group of eight people who help oversee the company's portfolio of 25-to-30 projects that are being worked on at any given time.

Tresente has helped the agency for U.S. music publishers accomplish that and more. For instance, in the first few months of his tenure at the agency, Tresente helped re-start a project aimed at consolidating the number of checks that are distributed to the company's music publishing clients. After a series of stops and starts which dogged the initial effort, the reconstituted project, under Tresente's direction, was completed about a year ago and has delivered all of the intended functionality as well as six figure cost savings by reducing the agency's annual check processing volumes.

Lou Trebino

Lou Trebino

But despite those early accomplishments, Tresente was still largely "invisible" to the company's executive management team, says Trebino. Senior management for the company "knew he was there and knew what he was doing but he didn't have the face time" with them, says Trebino. But that's all changed since Tresente recognized the need for assembling an 18-month rolling program of projects tied to the company's top business objectives.

Tresente's idea was to come up with a way for the PMO to look ahead at the IT infrastructure and business-focused projects being planned over an 18-month horizon and make sure the goals for each of the respective projects were aligned with the company's objectives, says Trebino.

Initially, the PMO reviewed the project portfolio on a quarterly basis to reshape each of its project estimates, says Trebino. That eventually evolved into a bi-weekly steering committee meeting between IT and business leaders led by Tresente to monitor the status of projects more closely "and redirect the ship as we need to," says Trebino. The steering committee includes the company's top six business leaders, such as the CEO, CFO and chief strategy officer.

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